Inquisitive semantics

Inquisitive semantics is a framework in logic and natural language semantics. In inquisitive semantics, the semantic content of a sentence captures both the information that the sentence conveys and the issue that it raises. The framework provides a foundation for the linguistic analysis of statements and questions.[1][2] It was originally developed by Ivano Ciardelli, Jeroen Groenendijk, Salvador Mascarenhas, and Floris Roelofsen.[3][4][5][6][7]

Basic notions

The essential notion in inquisitive semantics is that of an inquisitive proposition.

  • An information state (alternately a classical proposition) is a set of possible worlds.
  • An inquisitive proposition is a nonempty downward closed set of information states.

Inquisitive propositions encode informational content via the region of logical space which their information states cover. For instance, consider a simple inquisitive proposition which contains only a singleton information state {w} and the empty set . This inquisitive proposition conveys the information that the actual world must be {w} . In this respect, inquisitive propositions aren't very different from classical propositions, which also convey information by carving out a region of logical space. However, inquisitive propositions differ from classical ones in that they also convey inquisitive content by offering different avenues which one can take in refining their information. These avenues are provided by the maximal information states of an inquisitive proposition, which we call its alternatives. An inquisitive proposition can be thought of as raising the issue of which of its alternatives contains the actual world.

  • Let P be an inquisitive proposition. Then s is an alternative of P iff s is a maximal element of P.

To see how inquisitive propositions work, let's look at two brief examples. Consider the inquisitive proposition P which contains two singleton information states {w1} and {w2} , as well as the empty set . P conveys the information that the actual world must either be w1 or w2, but it also raises the issue of which of those two ways the world actually is. Contrast this with the inquisitive proposition Q which consists of the information state {w1, w2} and all of its subsets. This inquisitive proposition conveys the same informational content as P, but it differs in its inquisitive content. Since Q contains only a single maximal information state, it offers only a single avenue for refining its information, and therefore doesn't raise any non-trivial issues.

We can isolate the informational content of an inquisitive proposition by pooling its constituent information states as shown below.

  • The informational content of an inquisitive proposition P is .

We will make use of inquisitive propositions in order to provide an alternative interpretation of the language of propositional logic. Since the set of inquisitive propositions ordered by the subset relation forms a Heyting algebra, we can use the inventory of basic algebraic operations as the basis of our semantics. For instance, for every proposition P we have a relative pseudocomplement which amounts to . Similarly, for any propositions P and Q we have a meet and a join which amount to and respectively. Thus we can assign inquisitive propositions to formulas of as shown below.

Given a model where W is a set of possible worlds and V is a valuation function:

We will also use the operators ! and ? as abbreviations in the manner shown below.

Conceptually, the !-operator can be thought of as cancelling the issues raised by whatever it applies to while leaving its informational content untouched. For any formula , the inquisitive proposition expresses the same information as , but it may differ in that it raises no nontrivial issues. For example, if is the inquisitive proposition P from a few paragraphs ago, then is the inquisitive proposition Q.

The ?-operator trivializes the information expressed by whatever it applies to, while converting information states which would establish that its issues are unresolvable into states which resolve it. This is very abstract, so consider another example. Imagine that logical space consists of four possible worlds, w1, w2, w3, and w4, and consider a formula such that contains {w1} , {w2} , and of course . This proposition conveys that the actual world is either w1 or w2 and raises the issue of which of those worlds it actually is. Therefore, the issue it raises would not be resolved if we learned that the actual world is in the information state {w3, w4} . Rather, learning this would show that the issue raised by our toy proposition is unresolvable. As a result, the proposition contains all the states of , along with {w3, w4} and all of its subsets.


  1. ^ "What is inquisitive semantics?". Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam.
  2. ^ Ciardelli, Ivano; Groenendijk, Jeroen; Roelofsen, Floris (2019). Inquisitive Semantics (PDF). Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Ciardelli, I. (2009). "Inquisitive semantics and intermediate logics" (PDF). Master Thesis, ILLC University of Amsterdam.
  4. ^ Ciardelli, Ivano; Roelofsen, Floris (2009). "Generalized inquisitive logic: completeness via intuitionistic Kripke models" (PDF). Proceedings of the 12th Conference on Theoretical Aspacts of Rationality and Knowledge. ACM: 71–80.
  5. ^ Jeroen Groenendijk (2009). "Inquisitive semantics: Two possibilities for disjunction" (PDF). Proceedings of the 7th International Tbilisi Symposium on Language, Logic, and Computation. Springer: 80–94.
  6. ^ Groenendijk, Jeroen; Roelofsen, Floris (2009). "Inquisitive semantics and pragmatics" (PDF). Proceedings of the ILCLI International Workshop on Semantics, Pragmatics and Rhetoric: 41–72.
  7. ^ Mascarenhas, Salvador (2009). "Inquisitive semantics and logic" (PDF). Master Thesis, ILLC University of Amsterdam.

Further reading

This page was last updated at 2019-11-13 15:18, update this pageView original page

All information on this site, including but not limited to text, pictures, etc., are reproduced on Wikipedia (wikipedia.org), following the . Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License


If the math, chemistry, physics and other formulas on this page are not displayed correctly, please useFirefox or Safari